I won't lie to you all. I LOVED SCHOOL. Mostly, I loved being able to spend every second of those six hours with my best friends since I lived out of town and couldn't see them much out of school hours. I enjoyed learning and managed to find the perfect mix of mischievous banter and getting on with my work that I, for the most part, stayed on the good side of my teachers.
My friends, on the other hand, absolutely LOATHED the prison-like institute that they were forced to go to every day. And I totally understand that too.
All too often, you'd start your day turning off your alarm and rolling back over, hoping it was just a bad dream. Then your parents come in and start nagging at you to get up before you're late. And then it's a mad rush to get ready and you'll be dragging your feet on the way there. Once inside, it doesn't get much better, trying to stay awake in your first lesson, getting into trouble, and wishing the teachers would just understand the point your trying to make, and having all the stupid and COMPLETELY pointless rules enforced upon you. It can be absolute hell.
So when it came to the end of year 11, most of my friends went off to college to get away from the pits of the hell that was secondary school. Other went straight into full time work or apprenticeships. I stayed on at sixth form and now I'm half way through my first year at university.
I am absolutely baffled at why all of my friends who hated school weren't here?!? University life is unlike anything that I have ever known.
1. Moving Away From Home (FREEDOM!)
YES, FREEDOM! Moving away from home can be so great! It means no parents to keep shouting through your door until you get up, no parents to tell you not to get back too late, no parents to tell you to behave better or tidy up. The rules are completely your own! You wanna not get up until 3 PM on the weekend? Great! You don't want to have a curfew or follow household rules? That's fine! Want a midnight snack without having to try and be as stealthy as a ninja? You go get that food! Just try to remember to keep in touch with your parents a little bit, since they are the ones that tend to help when you've spent the last of your student loan in the SU bar and need some money for a hangover cure and some clean clothes!
2. University days are flexible and less "painful."
University days are completely different to school days!
With school, as most of us remember so vividly, there was pain of knowing from the moment you woke up you would be forced into a busy, full packed day of lessons and people you hardly knew or didn't like. My first six weeks of university, I only had one module. That was two lectures a week (four hours), and one workshop and one tutorial (three hours). That was only just over a school days amount of actual in university time! Don't get me wrong though, sometime you do get multiple modules at once. But more often than not, with the right time management and keeping on top of the work, you will understand how much better a day at university is than a day at school, college, or work. Attendance, although very very important, isn't actually compulsory. You are responsible for yourself and your learning. So if you were to miss a lecture every now and again because you were ill (hungover) or have an appointment (still drunk), no one is going to ring you up asking where you are, or inform your parents... This is your responsibility! (I would advise, however to keep on top or even ahead of work and deadlines, because then it makes missing that lecture even more enjoyable!)
If you were to go to work or college, you tend to find you are stuck there (just the same as school) for hours on end watching the clock until you get the precise bit of time for a break. At university you tend to have a couple of hours of lectures dotted around the place at all sorts of different times. This is so great if your university buildings are all on campus as they are for me, having a 10-12 lecture and then going to the SU for something to eat, or to a little cafe on campus for a coffee with friends before another lecture much later in the day.
3. The Experience!
I work part time in a local pub when I'm home from university. Since I've been working there for a few years, I have built friendships with the locals and how exciting it is to tell them and watch them listen to my life at university. My halls are set out in a circle facing inwards to a courtyard, which means it is SO easy to get people to your flat for parties and to meet new people! I am usually quite a shy and quiet person until you become my close friend (then you can never shut me up). So making friends has never been exactly easy for me, but everyone's in the same boat when they join university. And being in halls with hundreds of other students who are nervous, want to make friends and are often quite drunk, it makes that whole introducing yourself and not feeling so much of an idiot (at that moment anyway) a much simpler thing!
Yes you can still make friends with people at work or college, but when I ask my friends what their new mates are like, it sounds like they are describing copies of their old friendship group. At university, I have made friends with so many different types of people form many different walks of life, and that is something that can definitely spice up your life!
University is also able to offer you opportunities too, such as joining socials (which extend much further than my secondary schools hockey or football team). These are great ways to make friends and have fun AND you also get to go on cheap nights out thanks to the wonderful social sec's that arrange club nights with your student budget in mind! The range of these are huge and I have seen some that are sports teams (hockey, football, netball, every other sport under the sun) to more obscure themes such as Harry Potter fan clubs, to skydiving or skiing and snowboarding societies. Even if you've never done it before, joining societies can give you opportunities and experiences that would be super hard to find anywhere else!
4. Your future is, as yet, undecided.
A big reason for why I chose university over going straight into work or an apprenticeship was because of one simple factor: I have no clue what I want to do with my life!
I made it sound like I was set on university life since day one, but in actual fact I only decided to apply weeks before the cut off date! I tend to try to ignore the fact that I'm growing up and therefore need to make big, important, and often scary, decisions in life. I was scared of doing anything new, I liked being comfortable, and that is probably why I enjoyed school. But one evening after my sixth form forced me to go to an applicants fair (basically getting stopped by every university representative, every company offering apprenticeships or full time work for school leavers and give you a million leaflets and talk at you for ages about how you would be perfect for them whilst you're trying to spot the food stalls) I was scared that I'd end up doing nothing, stuck in my part time job for life. I decided I'd bite the bullet, go to uni, move out of home and try and do something that might inspire me to focus on the future.
I took business studies, again because I have no clue what I want to do with my life and thought it would be a nice subject which can be applied to any future prospective career. However, my advice is to go with a subject you really feel passionate about. That way you can really throw yourself into it and enjoy your time.
I hear a lot of stories of how people get halfway through their university life and realise they want a job that has nothing to do with what they are currently studying. No worries! Either you can change course and start again with something more suited to your new found vision for the future, or carry on with your degree and keep it as a plan B in case the plan A doesn't quite work out.
For me, I have gone from having no clue about my future and often trying my best to bury my head in the sand when it comes to thinking about it to now having multiple ideas of what I might or could do with my life post-university. I look to the future with excitement and a lot more courage than I used to have. University has enabled me to push my boundaries and move myself completely out of my comfort zone. I've made amazing friends that are going to stick by me for life, and now I'm starting to feel a bit more comfortable and secure about the future.
5. Student Loans
A lot of people who don't go to university give the main reason to fear of debt because of the student loans. But what they all too often don't understand is that you only begin paying it off once you start earning a certain amount a year after you graduate. And when you do have to pay it, it's mostly minimal payments taken out through a planned payment schedule so mostly you hardly notice it! And this means you don't have to spend as much time trying to juggle studying, social life, and work.
Working most nights during my time at school and sixth form was not only draining but meant I either had to cut back on my social life or cut back on my studies. Having money simply given to you makes life so much simpler! (Just remember to learn how to budget!!!)
Usually you will still need a part time job, but only for a few hours a week to give you a little bit extra drinking money!!
When I tell this to many of my friends who hated school and thought I was crazy for going to university, they now wish they had changed their minds and joined too. It's never too late to change your mind. University isn't just for young people. It's open to everyone!